A BOOK NAMED 'JOHN CLELAND'S MEMOIRS OF A WOMAN OF PLEASURE' et al. v. ATTORNEY GENERAL OF MASSACHUSETTS
Supreme Court Cases
383 U.S. 413 (1966)
Legal Principle at Issue
Whether the book Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, commonly called Fanny Hill, is legally obscene.
The Supreme Court found that the book was not legally obscene, overturning the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.
Massachusetts declared Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, an erotic novel published in 1750, to be legally obscene under the test articulated by the Supreme Court in Roth v. United States (1957). However, upon review, the Supreme Court found error in their application of the Roth test. Roth required a work to appeal as a whole to a prurient interest, be patently offensive, and be utterly without redeeming social value. Because the book had been found to have some redeeming social value, even if slight, this was enough to save the work from being declared legally obscene.
Importance of Case
The Court affirmed the importance of weighing each factor of the Roth obscenity test independently. The Roth test was later overruled by the obscenity test articulated by the Supreme Court in Miller v. California (1973). Additionally, this case held that one of the most censored novels in history was not, in fact, legally obscene.
Advocated for Respondent
- William I. Cowin View all cases
Advocated for Petitioner
- Charles Rembar View all cases